12 books for moms to distract you from coronavirus headlines

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March 25, 2020

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Life is looking pretty different for all of us at the moment. Most of us are stuck inside, suddenly facing new challenges and fears that we’ve never experienced before. And in an effort to keep others safe, we’re making the sacrifice of staying in and keeping our distance. It’s not easy, but maybe now is the perfect time to finally work on that resolution of trying to read more.

To help you in that goal and make the most of this unexpected time of solitude (or perhaps to help you intentionally seek out some quiet and solitude if you find yourself suddenly at home full-time with a whole house of kids), here are 12 books to consider for your “currently reading” shelf.

For a thrilling classic, try The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins or Dracula by Bram Stoker.

If you’ve never read Wilkie Collins, you’re in for a treat. A sensational masterpiece, with vivid characters and heart stopping plot twists, Collins’ The Woman in White uses first hand accounts, “like witnesses in a courtroom,” to investigate complex questions of identity, both in the novel’s plot and within the psychological portraits of its characters. Opening with Walter Hartright’s eerie encounter with a young woman on a country road, he is slowly drawn further into the mystery of who she is and how she might be connected with the Fairlie family where he is engaged as a drawing master. At over 800 pages, this novel is a commitment, but you’ll be surprised how quickly it reads and how fully it will capture your attention.

There is so much more to Dracula than just an encounter with a vampire. Filled with rich and fascinating characters — it’s worth reading just for the pleasure of meeting Dr. Van Helsing — Bram Stoker’s masterwork examines just what it means to be a monster and what kind of courage and sacrifice it takes to defeat one. When Count Dracula decides to journey to England, he seeks the assistance of a young solicitor, Jonathan Harker, who terrifyingly finds himself trapped in a castle with a monster. After his escape, Harker is joined by others who band together to protect the land and the women they love. Full of suspense, action, and drama, with a complex, thoughtful plot and smart, captivating characters, Dracula moves beyond the stereotypes of the Gothic genre and the monster tale into something richer and far more compelling. 

For a fun, forget-about-the-global-pandemic novel, try The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan or Attachments by Rainbow Rowell.

In this fun, fast-paced novel, Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan reimagine one of the great love stories of our time — Prince William and Kate Middleton — in the story of American Rebecca Porter and Nicholas Wales. When adventure-seeking Bex heads to Oxford for a semester abroad, she never expects to fall in love with the heir to the British throne, and certainly never expects the challenges of a relationship defined by tabloids, royal dictates, and unimaginable pressure. A thoroughly enjoyable, light-hearted read, The Royal We is also surprisingly thoughtful, well written, and well paced. The characters are so well developed that you become deeply invested in their story and you won’t want it to end. (And luckily for you, the highly anticipated sequel comes out in July.) 

Attachments: A Novel by [Rowell, Rainbow]

This fun, heartwarming, laugh out loud funny novel by Rainbow Rowell may end up becoming one of your favorites. It’s 1999. Y2K is imminent, email is new, and one Nebraska newspaper has hired Lincoln O’Neill as it’s IT Security officer. Part of Lincoln’s job is to read flagged emails and lately the WebForce folder is full of the digital correspondence between two close friends, movie reviewer Beth Fremont and copy editor Jennifer Scribner-Snyder. Told in part through Lincoln’s first person narrative and in part through the hilarious and deeply personal emails between Beth and Jennifer, Lincoln slowly realizes he’s falling for Beth. But he’s never met her. So that’s awkward. Attachments is full of heart and humor and humanity and its endearing characters will draw you in and leave you deeply attached. (See what I did there?)

For a captivating memoir, try Tara Westover’s Educated: A Memoir or Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books.

This powerful memoir by Tara Westover recounts one woman’s journey from an isolated childhood in a survivalist family in the mountains of Idaho to graduate studies at Cambridge. You’ll get swept up in Tara’s story, crying with her and cheering for her, as her life is transformed by her pursuit of knowledge, navigating the chasm between her upbringing and her education. Through her unique perspective and profound voice, Educated is a moving reflection on family, community, and self, and how we develop and accept our own identities, both through and in spite of those communal ties. 

In this beautifully crafted and insightful memoir, Dr. Azar Nafisi uses classic literature — particularly the work of Vladimir Nabokov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Jane Austen — as a window through which to view the story of a group of women living in revolutionary Iran. For two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Azar Nafisi, a brilliant and devoted teacher, met with seven female students in her home to study forbidden classics. And as they read, they find surprising parallels between the worlds within their books and their lives in Tehran, opening up about their dreams and disappointments through their love of literature. Part history, part memoir, part literary criticism, Reading Lolita in Tehran is a powerful commentary on the ability of literature to enable us to transcend our circumstances, better understand ourselves, and imagine a different type of world than the one we know.

For a bewitching historical novel, try The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows or The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.

This wonderful novel, written by Mary Ann Shaffer with her niece Annie Barrows, tells the story of writer Juliet Ashton, who through a correspondence begun with Dawsey Adams of Guernsey, develops close relationships with the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a unique book club formed as an alibi to protect its members from arrest at the hands of the Nazis during the island’s occupation. You will fall in love with Juliet, Dawsey, and the whole delightful cast of characters who draw you into their lives and their stories of surviving the war. You’ll finish it wanting to immediately begin again and you’ll desperately wish Juliet, Dawsey, Isola, and Sidney could be your friends in real life. A novel told entirely through letters and manuscripts, you get to know the characters through their own voices and idiosyncrasies, which is also why the audiobook is one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever listened to. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is one of my favorite contemporary novels and never fails to cheer me up and leave me feeling all warm and cozy.

Set in Alaska in the tumultuous years following Vietnam, The Great Alone tells the story of thirteen-year-old Leni who comes of age in the Alaskan frontier, facing the challenges of the wild landscape, seemingly endless winter, and perhaps most harrowing of all, her troubled and turbulent parents. Through the friendship and love she finds among the others who have carved out a life in this remote place, Leni grows up and learns to embrace a life and a world more wonderful and terrible than she ever imagined. This stunning, yet tragic book has everything a great novel should ― it’s well written, well plotted, and well researched, with rich characters and a very interesting setting, but it’s more than that. It is moving and utterly captivating. It forces us to reflect on what it means to be isolated and what it means to be part of a community. (Pretty appropriate at the moment, I think.) The Great Alone is a powerful story about love and loss, relationship and solitude, set across the backdrop of the breathtaking Alaskan wilderness, and it once again proves that, as a writer, Kristin Hannah is a master.

For an escape to your childhood, try These Happy Golden Years or Anne of the Island

These Happy Golden Years is the final installment of the original Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, telling the story of Laura’s coming of age in the little town of De Smet, South Dakota, focusing particularly on her courtship and eventual marriage to Almanzo Wilder. It’s simple, timeless, and kind of adorable. I also appreciate what an honest portrayal it is of growing up and leaving home, and what a bittersweet thing that can be. This has been my go-to comfort read since I was a teenager. It’s a satisfying end to a wonderful series and the endearing story of Laura and Almanzo will always hold a special place in my heart.

Anne of the Island is the third book in L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series, and my personal favorite (closely followed by Rilla of Ingleside). An eighteen year old Anne leaves her beloved Avonlea to pursue a BA at Redmond College, embracing new ambitions, finding new kindred spirits, and learning that the course of true love does not run smooth. It’s my favorite for two reasons. One, this is such a cozy book. There’s just something about curling up with Anne by the fire of Patty’s Place or taking a long walk through Violet Vale with Gilbert that makes me feel at home in this novel. Two, it’s the perfect novel for any hopeless romantic as we watch Diana, Phillipa, and Anne fall in love and imagine the new lives of womanhood about to unfold before them. And, of course, there is Anne herself, as wonderful and endearing as ever, only grown a little older and wiser, and as her friend Philippa says, she makes us “long to be better and wiser and stronger.”

For some spiritual growth during this unintentional retreat, try Consoling the Heart of Jesus or The Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life.

Consoling the Heart of Jesus is a do-it-yourself retreat by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, that combines the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius with the teachings of Saints Therese of Lisieux, Faustina Kowalska, and Louis de Montfort. It is intended to be done over a weekend, but can be read at any pace, and is accessible to anyone who is looking for a simple path to holiness. This wonderful book will deepen your faith and give you a deeper love for Christ and a greater desire to accept his Divine Mercy and console His heart. 

As many of us are facing the heartbreaking and unprecedented trial of being without the Mass or any kind of community religious activities, now more than ever is a wonderful time to be more intentional about practicing liturgical living in the home. And if that sounds overwhelming, this fantastic book is a great place to start. With wisdom and humor, mother of 10 and writer Kendra Tierney shares how her family celebrates Catholic seasons and feasts, offering concrete ideas for activities, foods, decorations, and devotions that will help you practice your faith more fully at home. The Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life reads easily, is well organized, and speaks to the beautiful traditions and depth of our faith. It will help you think about how to shape your life with liturgical living in mind and it will definitely increase your love and understanding of the Church and Her history and traditions.

I hope at least a few of these books will help you get through this difficult time. Be smart; be safe; and let’s take care of each other. 

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